India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India & UNSC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC, Peace and Security Council of the African Union

Mains level : Paper 2- Objective for India as UNSC member

As India start its stint as UNSC member, it finds itself in a different world with a different set of problems. 

An overview of India’s stint at UNSC after Cold War

1) India’s 1991-1992 stint

  • During 1991-92, India saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and the new Russia’s turn to the US and the West.
  • China was opening its economy and keeping a low profile in the unipolar moment.
  • India, too, its own set of problems.
  • Delhi had to fix its broken economy and overhaul its foreign policy to cope with the post-Soviet world.
  • The West could not resist the temptations for geopolitical overreach [looking into the internal matters of other countries] at the UN.
  • For India, it was a moment to resist the external imposition of solutions to its manifold problems — especially on the Kashmir question and the nuclear issue.

2) India’s 2011-2012 stint

  • During 2011-2012 stint, revived Russia and a rising China began to resisting the sweeping Western agenda at the UN.
  • India’s own relative position improved in the first decade of the 21st century, thanks to rapid economic growth.
  • India was certainly less defensive than in the 1990s, but struggled to turn its new strengths into practical outcomes.

3) India’s current stint

  • India has walked into a far more contentious UNSC.
  • Differences between the US, China and Russia have become intractable.
  • China has risen to be a great power and is making expansive claims and trying to redeem them.
  • Russia has moved closer to China.
  • President Donald Trump’s questioning of America’s traditional alliances has sharpening disagreements between the U.S. and its European allies.

5 Objectives India should pursue at UNSC

1) Maintaining the effectiveness of UNSC

  • The UNSC is becoming less effective today due to the deep divisions among the major powers.
  • After a brief moment of great power cooperation in the 1990s, we are now back in an era of contestation.
  • But there will be enough opportunity for India to play a larger role amid renewed great power rivalry.
  • The UNSC offers room for sustained diplomatic interaction between the major powers, who could create new opportunities for cooperation.
  • The US and China could explore potential common ground even amidst their broad-based confrontation.
  • All other powers, including India, will, of course, want to be sure that the US-China cooperation is not at the expense of others.

2) Making UNSC more representative

  • Making the UNSC more representative has been one of India’s demands since the end of the Cold War.
  • China has no interest in letting two other Asian powers — India and Japan — join the UNSC as permanent members.
  • India’s campaign, in partnership with Brazil, Germany and Japan, to expand the UNSC must continue.
  • For the campaign will help highlight an important principle and reveal the nature of political resistance to it.

3) Dealing with hostile China and unipolar Asia

  • India, which was eager to build a multipolar world with Beijing, now finds itself in a unipolar Asia that is centred around China.
  • Meanwhile, the boundary dispute has worsened over the last decade.
  • China has repeatedly tried to get the UNSC to focus on India’s constitutional changes in Kashmir.
  • Beijing protects Pakistan from the international pressures that India has sought to mobilise at various fora.
  • On the nuclear front, China continues to block India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

4) Strengthening new coalitions

  • The engagement with peace and security issues at the UNSC will allow India to strengthen its new coalitions such as the Quad.
  • India could also use the UNSC tenure to deepen collaboration with its European partners like France and Germany in the security arena, and find common ground with the U.K.
  • India must also sustain an intensive dialogue with Moscow on all international issues, notwithstanding Russia’s worsening problems with the West and closer ties to China.

5) Revitalising engagement with partners in the “global south”

  • Two sub-groups of the global south should be of special interest for India.
  • 1) The numerous small island states face existential challenges from global warming and rising sea levels.
  • They also struggle to exercise control over their large maritime estates.
  • Supporting the sovereignty and survivability of the island states is a crucial political task for India.
  • 2) Africa is the other priority.
  • Nearly half of UNSC meetings, 60 per cent of its documents, and 70 per cent of its resolutions are about peace and security in Africa.
  • The continent has three seats in the UNSC (Kenya, Niger and Tunisia) and there is regular consultation between the UNSC and the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU).
  • The UNSC tenure is a good moment for Delhi to intensify India’s engagement on peace and security issues in Africa at bilateral, regional and global levels.

Consider the question “What objective India should pursue in its stint at the UNSC? What challenges India will face in achieving these objectives?”


As India start its stint at the UNSC, the world finds itself at a precipice with multiple problems. India should use this stint to achieve the objectives discussed here for the benefit of all.

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